July is usually when colorful sailboats zip around Huntington Lake for the annual High Sierra Regatta.
But not this year.
Instead, there's a lake at 35% capacity with beaches extending well below the normal water line. For the first time in its 61-year history, the Fresno Yacht Club canceled the regatta in April because of low water levels (then at 38%).
Normally, the Huntington Lake and Lakeshore resorts would fill up cabins with sailors and spectators for the two-weekend event, but now they've been forced to come up with other ways to draw people to the lake.
"The lake's still beautiful," Lakeshore owner Gabrielle Kant said. "We'd just like to get people out of the norm and into something a little different. If they're used to sailing, maybe they'll switch to something else."
Last weekend, Lakeshore Resort hosted the first Huntington Lake Rock Crawl, a four-wheel drive competition on the beach. More than 50 drivers took their four-wheel vehicles over boulders and rocks on the shore, Kant said.
A second rock crawl is planned for Aug. 23-24.
Kant even pitched the idea of horseback riding along the beach.
"With the water levels so low, it's something you normally can't do on the beach," she said.
But it's the middle of the week that has businesses hurting most.
"Our problem is the midweek business has dropped off," Kant said. "We're getting pretty hammered on the weekends, but weekdays have calmed down."
The same goes for at Huntington Lake Resort, where owner Nancy Omachi is experiencing a similar trend. At this time last year, Omachi was lodging visitors in all nine cabins at her resort. On Wednesday, two were in use.
This year, Omachi even purchased two large teepees used in the Kevin Costner film "Dances with Wolves" that are available for lodging on the lake, but those don't make up for the money lost.
"There's normally still a lot of people here (after the July 4 holiday weekend)," Omachi said. "Now that the weekend is over, it's quiet again."
But instead of blaming the drought regatta and staying negative, the Lakeshore community remains positive. The weather -- "twenty degrees cooler than Fresno," is the community's tagline -- only adds to the benefits of a quick getaway from the San Joaquin Valley.
Both resorts offer rentals on kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, "it's just the sailors who can't enjoy the water," Omachi said.
For anglers, the Huntington Lake and Big Creek Historical Conservancy is hosting its fishing derby through Labor Day weekend.
The first session started ends July 27. The second opens July 28 and runs through Sept. 1. The derby is $10 to enter for adults and $5 for kids and offers more than $10,000 in cash and prizes.
• Aug. 9: Multi Sport Festival at China Peak
• Aug. 10: Big Kites Festival, featuring the Berkeley Flight Wranglers
• Aug. 17: Motorcycle Rumble to the Peak
• Sept. 20: American Institute of Architecture's Sand Castle Competition
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